All Are Precious in His Sight

How the ERLC Champions the Dignity of Every Life

Chelsea Sobolik

In the first pages of the Bible, we learn about God’s good design for humanity and his intimate and intentional knowledge and care for human beings. We aren’t left to wonder who we are or what our purpose is because Scripture immediately answers those questions. In the inaugural chapter of Genesis, God creates mankind, male and female, in his image. He then blesses them and instructs them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on earth” (1:26-28). 

After God created humanity, Scripture tells us that he saw everything that he had made and it was very good (Gen. 1:31). Because men and women are created in God’s image, we have inherent worth that is to be respected and protected. Whether or not we believe this sets the foundation for how we interact with our fellow neighbors. As theologian John Hammett has noted, “. . . a right understanding of our creation in the image of God is the strongest ground for human dignity, and a misunderstanding of it opens the door to devastating devaluations of humans and the diminishing of human dignity.”1https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/where-does-the-idea-of-human-dignity-come-from/

The Baptist Faith and Message summarizes the biblical revelation that every person is made in the image of God, and thus, is worthy of protection and dignity, regardless of age, level of ability, or stage of development: “The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.”2https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/

How Has The ERLC Engaged On This Issue?

The ERLC has long advocated for all human life, especially the preborn. Every year, thousands of precious human lives are denied both personhood and protection because of abortion. We are working toward a day when abortion is not only illegal, but also unthinkable and unnecessary. 

Pro-life Riders 

One way we do this is by protecting pro-life riders in the Congressional Appropriations Process.3https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/5-pro-life-riders-southern-baptists-should-know-about/ The ERLC will work to preserve the Hyde Amendment not only because it prevents government-funded violence against preborn children, but also because it prevents the government from coercing citizens to act against their consciences in the taxpayer incentive.4https://erlc.com/resource-library/articles/what-you-should-know-about-the-hyde-amendment/ We are also working to protect other similar amendments: the Weldon (discrimination protections for those with objections to abortion), the Dornan (Hyde protections in the District of Columbia), the Helms (protection against funds being used for abortion in international aid), the Siljander (protection against funds being used to lobby for abortion internationally), and the Kamp-Kasten (protection against funds to organizations that support coercive abortion or sterilization).

The Mississippi Abortion Case

We are also preparing for a potentially post-Roe world. In December 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case titled Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This case is an incredible opportunity to affirm life, shift abortion jurisprudence, and send the question of abortion back to the states. In the Dobbs case, the Supreme Court is reviewing a Mississippi law called the “Gestational Age Act” that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, except in a medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality. This law replaces the “viability standard” created by Roe. The court is examining whether pre-viability restrictions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. 

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court admitted that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn human life. But it concluded that interest did not become compelling until viability, because at that point, the unborn child “has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” However, the choice of viability as the point before which a state may not forbid abortion is entirely arbitrary. Even the author of Roe and two authors of Casey’s three-justice plurality have admitted this. In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey expanded abortion access. When the “viability standard” was initially created in 1973, viability was around 28 weeks. It is now around 21 weeks. The viability line will keep moving as our modern medicine continues to improve. No Supreme Court decision has ever provided a principled justification for the viability standard.

The Dobbs case provides another chance for the court to overturn the viability standard and affirm a fundamental right to life.5https://erlc.com/what-you-should-know-about-supreme-court-decision-abortion/ The ERLC joined an amicus brief in this case, asking the court to overturn those harmful precedents. In addition, we will work to ensure that abortion is unthinkable and unnecessary and that states are equipped to respond if and when abortion is sent back to the states.

Adoption and Foster Care 

Additionally, we work to support adoption and foster care policies because every child deserves a safe, permanent, and loving home. While we are longing for a day when abortion will be illegal, unnecessary, and unthinkable, one of the sad realities is that there will likely be more children entering into the U.S. foster care system. There are currently 407,493 children in foster care, with approximately one-fourth of those children eligible for adoption. While foster care is largely governed at the state level, there are certain policies on a federal level we are working on in order to ensure that vulnerable children are protected. For example, during the high of the COVID-19 pandemic, we advocated for Congress to place a moratorium on youth aging out in order to provide them safety and security so they can continue their current living arrangements and have the support they need. 

Ways Christians Can Get Involved

The Baptist Faith and Message gives us this charge as we seek to care for our neighbor and uphold the dignity of every person:6https://bfm.sbc.net/bfm2000/

“In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography. We should work to provide for the orphaned, the needy, the abused, the aged, the helpless, and the sick. We should speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

The unchangeable truth that every human bears the image of God must affect how we think about, speak about, and treat our fellow human beings. Whenever and wherever human dignity is under assault, Christians should be the first ones to call it out and advocate to make things right in order to protect the vulnerable and uphold the inherent dignity, worth, and value of everyone—including those with whom we disagree. 

God has told us who our neighbors are and how we are to care for them (Luke 10:29-37). Perhaps you’re wondering how the Lord is calling you to get involved in caring for the vulnerable among us. Spend time in prayer, asking for wisdom, discernment, and direction. We aren’t called to do everything or to bear every burden on our shoulders. Our job is to be faithful and obedient to how God is specifically and intentionally calling us to serve. 

The ERLC will always advocate for life and human dignity before Congress, the courts, and in the public square. We are working and praying toward a day when abortion is both unnecessary and unthinkable and when the dignity of every individual is recognized and upheld.

Chelsea Sobolik serves as the Director of Public Policy with the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission in the Washington, D.C. office. Previously, she worked on Capitol Hill on pro-life policies, domestic and international religious freedom, adoption, and foster care issues. Chelsea has been published at the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Gospel Coalition, Christianity Today, and others. She is the author of Longing for Motherhood – Holding onto Hope in the Midst of Childlessness, and a forthcoming book on women and work. She has a B.A. in International Relations from Liberty University, and lives in Washington, D.C. with her husband Michael.